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Paul Feyerabend

I was listening to an audiobook called "Dimensions of Scientific Thought", which was generally a good history of the development and methods of science. At the end, though, it included the criticisms of a philosopher, Paul Feyerabend, which I can only describe briefly as incoherent. So, I did a little research...

Paul Feyerabend

What is so onerous about the philosophy of Paul Feyerabend?

Let's take a quote from the above article.... Relativism is the tool with which Feyerabend hopes to “undermine the very basis of Reason” [quoted in article]. Indeed, he says:

science is much closer to myth than a scientific philosophy is prepared to admit. It is one of the many forms of thought that have been developed by man, and not necessarily the best. It is conspicuous, noisy, and impudent, but it is inherently superior only for those who have already decided in favour of a certain ideology, or who have accepted it without ever having examined its advantages and its limits (AM, p. 295).

From which we are to conclude: The separation of church and state should therefore be supplemented by the separation of science and state, in order for us to achieve the humanity we are capable of. Setting up the ideal of a free society as “a society in which all traditions have equal rights and equal access to the centres of power” (SFS, p. 9), Feyerabend argues that science is a threat to democracy. To defend society against science we should place science under democratic control and be intensely sceptical about scientific “experts”, consulting them only if they are controlled democratically by juries of laypeople.

He is quoted in "Dimensions of Scientific Thought" as defending astrology against an article in the Humanist attacking astrology, but in the letter, providing no evidence against astrology, claiming that science has become no more than another authoritarian dogma throwing its weight around (neglecting entirely the fact that no one would read a long article that actually cited the facts against astrology).

His ideas seem to be implicitly behind the Dominionist claims that lay people who know nothing about science or history are exactly the right people to be judging local educational curricula at school board meetings, and that the opinions of experts are to be ignored. Feyerabend defends Relativism as a way to solve problems... but relativism by its very nature is incapable of "solving problems". Indeed, if you listen to Pat Condell, relativism is the bane of Europe right now. How can there we any concept of justice or morality if we accept relativism? All of our advancements since the Renaissance collapse if Uganda's "Kill the Gays" bill is just as moral or just or advanced as Western equality. Imagine for a moment the kind of horrors that relativism can allow. (Please don't take me to mean that all things the West does are better than what is anywhere else: I'm not a colonialist. What I'm arguing for is that there is a "best" answer; maybe none of have it yet, but that's not to say that all answers are equally bad.)

I am taking an Advanced Philosophy of Science class in the Winter. I wonder if I will have to read some of his stuff. I suspect I will have a hard time reading him.


science wins

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